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Generation Next. Mental Health Depictions for Storytellers – Writers/Reporters/Announcers/Producers. Introducing Generation Next…. We encourage you to join Generation Next and be a part of the “ ART of making a difference. ”. Generation Next Features :
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Generation Next Mental Health Depictions for Storytellers – Writers/Reporters/Announcers/Producers
Introducing Generation Next… We encourage you to join Generation Next and be a part of the “ART of making a difference.” • Generation Next Features: • Mentoring session with media experts • Qualifying Productions aired on EICnetwork.tv, a global internet television network • Curricular resources for faculty and students • Distribution of Press Release and Special News Story about student involvement to address mental health concerns. • Social Media push of qualifying productions through EIC
Screenwriters, directors, and producers have significant potential to influence public understanding and reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. It Begins With Story “Stories are how we think. They are how we make meaning of life. Call them schemas, scripts, cognitive maps, mental models, metaphors, or narratives. Stories are how we understand our place in the world, create our identities, and define and teach social values.” (Dr. Pamela Rutledge, Director, Media Psychology Research Center) “Stories are the creative conversion of life itself into a more powerful, clearer, more meaningful experience. They are the currency of human contact.” Robert McKee, Author & Professor As we tap into the psychology of characters, we begin to realize how complex human beings really are. The greatest battles characters fight are with themselves.
It Begins With Story Exploring mental health issues offers the writer an opportunity to delve into and understand the complex inner world of someone living with a mental illness. Authentic stories and compelling characters can influence and encourage those who need help to seek help. Insert clip file #1
Why mental health matters? Helping the audience better understand mental illness can reduce barriers to treatment and recovery. “Colleges across the country are reporting large increases in the prevalence and severity of mental health conditions experienced by students.” (NAMI, College Students Speak) • In the past year: • 1 out of 4 college students experienced some form of mental illness • Over 30% of U.S. college students felt so depressed they were unable to function • Half of them felt overwhelming anxiety • 64% of students who need help do not seek treatment • Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death among college students
Stigma and discrimination often prevent us from talking about mental health issues except when a crisis occurs. What depictions come to mind when we talk about mental illness? • For example: • Someone harming or killing him or herself. • Someone randomly shooting innocent people or committing other violent acts. • In reality: • People living with mental illness are responsible for no more than 5% of violent acts in America. • People living with mental illness are more often the victims, not perpetrators, of violence.
What depictions come to mind when we talk about mental illness? Whenever possible, we encourage the depiction of characters with a mental illness who are nonviolent. • 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness and/or substance abuse disorder at the time of their death, which is just one piece of a very complex picture. Many of these lives can be saved through early intervention.
Individuals with the same diagnosis may experience symptoms differently. Understanding your character’s history • “Since most writing is a personal exploration into new territory, it demands some research to make sure that the character and context make sense and ring true.” • (Linda Seger, Creating Unforgettable Characters) • Mental illness can be defined as psychological distress that impairs: • Everyday living • Work • Relationships • Social lives • Family life
Understanding your character’s history What Causes Mental Illness? Physical (hardware) • Damage: drug/alcohol use, traumatic brain injuries, fetal alcohol syndrome, dementia, neurological Neurological (software) • The brain isn’t communicating: schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, OCD Environmental (user errors) • PTSD
Understanding your character’s history Mental illness covers a wide range of conditions: • Anxiety Disorders: PTSD, OCD, panic, social anxiety • Mood Disorders: Depression, bipolar • Psychotic disorders: Schizophrenia • Eating Disorders: Anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, binge eating • Impulse control and addiction disorders: Pyromania, kleptomania, compulsive disorders • Personality disorders: Antisocial, paranoid Insert clip file #2
Stigma and discrimination remain the utmost barriers to seeking help. What external conflicts could your character be facing? • The effects of stigma and discrimination: • Isolation from friends and family • Unfair treatment in education • Discrimination in employment • Difficulty renting an apartment • A character may not seek help because: • Stigma • Fear • Concern about social standing or loss of job • Mistrust • Cultural norms • Stereotypes • Lack of information Insert clip file #3
As you develop your story and characters, consider the following: How can we depict mental illness in a non-discriminatory way? • Tell the Complete Story: • Mental health conditions do not define a person or character. The experiences that shape characters’ lives are part of the larger story. • Look for ways to create realistic, nuanced characters with a mental health condition, rather than overly emphasizing symptoms to dramatize content. • Consider using storylines, including the ongoing recovery process and impact on friends and family, that span multiple episodes to meaningfully portray the many facets of living with a mental health condition.
How can we depict mental illness in a non-discriminatory way? Choose your words and tone carefully: • The person is not the illness. Emphasize that a character is living with, for example, a bipolar disorder rather than saying, “she’s bipolar.” • Avoid using derogatory slang such as “he’s psychotic,”“gone nuts,”“acting deranged” in a way that reinforces discrimination. • Consider using humor and self-disclosure, both effective methods for communicating mental health issues, in your storylines.
How can we depict mental illness in a non-discriminatory way? • Accurately depict a character’s diagnosis • A character experiencing changes in appetite, sleep, energy levels, or concentration can educate the audience about the common warning signs of mental health conditions. • In addition to self-care, encourage accurate diagnoses and professional help. For example, your character may visit an experienced mental health professional to confirm a diagnosis.
How does culture shape a character’s values and belief system? Stories submitted to the Generation Next competition must focus on one or more underserved populations such as: • Youth and young adults (ages 16-25) • Members of ethnic groups (African-American, Latino, Asian/Pacific Islander and Native American) • LGBTQ individuals • Rural residents • Seniors
How does culture shape a character’s values and belief system? • When depicting characters within specific ethnic populations or minority groups, consider the following: • For example, • A number of population groups believe that mental health issues are best dealt with “among their own.” • Socio-economics, language barrier, stigma and discrimination, lack of access to treatment facilities play a big part in determining whether a person who needs help will seek and receive treatment. • In addition, religious and spiritual traditions vary and greatly influence people’s coping mechanisms and views.
In the end, what matters most is the emotional impact the character’s journeyhas on its audience, and the underlying meaning of that journey. What central theme does your character embody? • Portraying mental health in a positive light: • Depict characters as not seeing crises as insurmountable problems, but looking toward solutions and acting accordingly. • Show a character in a stressful situation thinking in a broader context and keeping a long-term perspective. • Showcase characters who have good relationships with close family members, friends, and others and who accept help and support from those who care about them, which helps maintain their positive mental health state. • Most people with mental illnesses recover and go on to lead very successful lives. Consider depicting characters who are professionals, respected members of their communities, and have successful families. Insert clip file #4
You can make a difference… You can foster an environment that promotes social inclusion and understanding in your creative endeavors and in everyday life by following these simple rules: •Avoid labeling people with words like “crazy,”“wacko,”“loony,” or by their diagnosis. •Don’t rely on hearsay or stereotypes: learn the real facts about mental health and share them with others. •Treat people who have a mental health condition with respect and dignity, as you would anybody else.
The following resources are available at: eiconline.org/swpa-gen-next Mental Health Resources for Storytellers • About Mental Health: • TEAM Up (Tools for Entertainment and Media) • Each Mind Matters • SAMHSA • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline • Active Minds • MHA The Village • About Storytelling: • TEAM Up for Entertainment • Depiction Suggestions • Style Guide • First Person Accounts • Articles • A New State of Mind: Ending the Stigma of Mental Illness (documentary)
Generation Next Campaign • Generation Next Film and Television Campaign • Spring 2015 • Application Deadline: March 31, 2015 • Final Projects Deadline: April 7, 2015